The Telegraph front page is a ruthless and cynical attempt to close the Oborne story down. They will succeed

21 Feb 2015 at 12:00

What on earth did senior management of the Telegraph think that they were doing running that appalling story on their front page this morning? You know the one about suicides at the TIMES because of the pressures put on them by Murdoch management to cosy up to advertisers. And the suggestion that most of Fleet Street is up to the same sort of naughties as Peter Oborne accused the Telegraph of when he had his Geoffrey Howe moment. In a nutshell the Oborne argument is that as HSBC had a massive advertising budget with them and that the bank had loaned a subsidiary company £240 million, the editorial policy was to bury the HSBC dodgy Swiss tax avoidance scheme allegations. The Telegraph deny this.

But the very fact that the Telegraph is pointing the finger at everyone else down the Street of shame may be a ruthless but clever device of closing this story down. I would imagine that management consulted Andrew Neil the Chairman of Press Holdings who own the Telegraph and the Spectator. I have know Andrew for years. A brilliant journalist and a legendary editor of the Sunday Times. And a serious bruiser. Enter a revolving door in front of Andrew and I can guarantee that he will come out first.

If Andrew was consulted I suspect that he would have drawn on his experience at the hands of Murdoch in 1994. The Sunday Times was running a corruption piece on then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamed. He was not amused and directly contacted Murdoch who feared that the story would damage his fledgling extra terrestrial television interests in Asia. Neill got the heave ho and a whacking great cheque. After all, he was right to run the story.

So my theory is that this is a warning to the rest of Fleet Street to take their tanks of the Telegraph’s beautifully manicured lawn or else. It will be interesting to see what the reaction of the Sundays will be on this. A bit of a headache for columnists who (although they will never admit) want to know what the line is. My guess that this story will be closed down mid week if not before.

My advice to politicians? Apart from the usual platitudes, leave it alone it will only come back to bite you on the bum.

So what do we learn from all of this? That newspapers are as cynical and venal as politicians. There is a satisfying whiff of hypocrisy in the air. The papers attack politicians for being too cosy with the money men. Whoops. Oh, and the Guardian, that great scourge of tax avoidance, has got half a billion quid in a tax haven in the Cayman’s.

Thank heavens we have a free, fearless and independent press who will leave no stone unturned to root out corruption.

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